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Sioux Falls, S.D. is about four hours from Minneapolis and three from Omaha. It’s almost eight from Rugby, N.D., but seemingly light years from anywhere that could be considered a cradle of rugby. But Sioux Falls is where Gannon Moore, the bearded badass who was the talk of the tournament during Denver’s title run at Serevi Rugbytown 7s last weekend, and who has received an invite to the upcoming Eagles high performance camp at the Olympic Training Center, calls home.
Moore is considered a crossover athlete. Given he played DII college football, it’s not an altogether incorrect title, but Moore first picked up a rugby ball at the age of 15. He was lured to the game by his older brother, and the two played high school ball for the Siouxland club which competes in Rugby Nebraska.
Moore went with Nebraska’s select side to the Rocky Mountain Challenge, perhaps the nation’s premier high school all-star tournament, as a freshman and sophomore. He turned heads even at a young age, earning an invite to the High School All American camp, along with his brother, though they chose not to attend.
“I was only 15 at the time, and I was only playing rugby because I was having a lot of fun,” recalled Moore. “I wasn’t thinking of it like I could maybe pursue this.”
Plus, the possibility of football paying for his education started to become a reality. He had scholarship offers from DI schools in the region but chose DII Southwest Minnesota State, where he wouldn’t be asked to redshirt and could earn a degree in four years. He tied the school’s single-season rushing touchdown record as a freshman and led the team in receptions as a senior.
Moore attended a regional NFL combine in Chicago and had some discussions with the Houston Texans, but a contract offer never came, so he moved back home to Sioux Falls where he met an old boy from the Kansas City Blues who put him in touch with the club. Moore made the trek to Colorado, where he starred for the Nebraska select side eight or so years prior, to play with the Blues’ collegiate side in Denver 7s. He was a revelation. He had a revelation.
“We won the tournament against the Air Force Academy,” said Moore. “That’s when it kind of clicked, and I was like, ‘I think I can take this to the highest level.’”
Moore moved to Kansas City, started to play with the Blues, and helped the club become a contender – they finished third at Club 7s nationals last year and won the Frontier this summer. In 15s, Moore was a menacing runner from the back of the scrum for the Blues as they won the Midwest.
“He doesn’t want to be given anything,” said Blues 7s coach Scott Kram of Moore. “He’s got great natural ability but works his ass off, and he listens well and goes out and tries to execute to the best of his ability, and I think that’s a bonus for him. He’s always hungry looking for work.
“Athletically, it’s what everybody’s been talking about the last couple of years – can crossover athletes make it in the world of rugby – Gannon has definitely proven that’s the case, along with several other players.”
As a former running back, Moore isn’t afraid of lowering his shoulder. He’s deceptively fast, and he’s a sure tackler. His rugby skills are coming on, too.
“I’ve always loved rugby. People always talk about football being the greatest team sport, but having played both at a reasonably high level, there’s nothing like offloading a ball for somebody else to score in rugby in any other sport, in my opinion.”
Moore has been on the scene for a couple of years now, playing at club nationals and Elite City 7s, but there’s no doubt Serevi Rugbytown 7s was his coming out party.
“He’s a guy that we’re looking to close out big games for us,” said Kram. “Obviously, that was proven when he went out to Denver and scored a couple of those really big tries for them.”
“After the Serevi tournament I had several people come up to me and be like, ‘the phone call is going to come after this tournament,’” said Moore. “Several people kept telling me that. Serevi himself after the final was like, ‘keep doing what you’re doing – head forward, just keep playing good rugby.’”
Team USA's watchful eyes caught notice, too, earning Moore a shot at becoming a part of Mike Friday’s player pool. The Olympics were the carrot which pulled Moore to Denver 7s a couple of years ago and to Kansas City shortly thereafter.
“I think that’s every athlete’s dream to be able to represent their country at the Olympic level,” Moore said. The invite to camp has Moore one step closer to making that dream come true.